Part of The Pharmacist’s series of case studies on how cuts to community pharmacy funding are affecting ordinary pharmacists, a Kent contractor explains the impact on their pharmacy
Amish Patel, owner of Hodgson Pharmacy, Longfield, Kent, director and aesthetics practitioner at Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic and board member of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
‘The cuts have obviously had an impact on our bottom line. There’s no doubt about it. Profits aren’t what they were in previous years and you do feel slightly demotivated. It’s hard getting over that we’re all going to have to work harder to earn the same money.
We’ve added extra services, such as a vascular age service that works out the age of your arteries compared to your actual age. Another example is the lung age service, which compares the age of your lungs to your actual age – which is especially good for smokers. We’ve been doing a travel clinic for two years and we’re now pushing it a bit more.
‘Before the cuts were announced, we had also started setting up an aesthetics clinic that offers cosmetic treatments. Since the cuts, we’ve expanded that service from offering just basic Botox and dermal fillers to now doing much more advanced procedures.
‘We offer non-surgical rhinoplasties, skincare advice, tear trough filling, thread lifts, which we added this year. This puts a fine thread that is made from the same material as dissolvable stitches in the face to lift it.
‘We’ve invested between £30,000 and £40,000 over the past two years in promoting the general business and these new services, including promoting the travel clinic on Facebook with sponsored posts, a new website, getting the website on the top page of Google and posters.
‘The ideas for promoting our services came from setting up an aesthetics clinic. We had to work on branding and create a different marketing strategy for this industry to what we would do in the pharmacy.
‘We’ve invested with the aim of making more money. Staying afloat is important.
‘I’m waiting for my accounts to come through this year to see what the impact of the cuts were, but last year our profits fell at least 10% from our bottom line.
‘There was definitely a dip in staff morale at one point, especially in the early days when we had to explain what was happening.
‘All the staff have always provided the NHS services, but the additional private services we’ve added have helped. They have been given some of the staff health and wellbeing consultant roles, which is now what their job badges say. It has given them a bit more joy in their roles again.
‘We had some staff that weren’t so understanding about offering the extra services. For one or two staff members, it was becoming more service orientated rather than about retail and serving customers. The expectation was that they would deliver stop smoking services and health checks, and they thought, ‘It’s not my job role to do this and it’s not what I signed up for when I first came along’.
‘The environment has changed and we are expecting our staff to do a slightly different job role, so those who haven’t liked it have gone elsewhere.
‘At one point, it worked out that we were down one full time member of staff. We haven’t laid anyone off, but we did change the hours of some staff as people left. But now due to the increase in services we’re offering, it has gone back up again. We have eight staff on the books now and one person is almost offering a service in a consultation room full-time.
‘We are now trying to find innovative ways to make sure that bricks and mortar pharmacy is here to stay.
‘Earlier this week I was auditing how many patients we have lost to some other pharmacies and online and asking some of them why and they’ve told us it’s purely a convenience factor. So we’re trying to come up with new ideas of how we can retain those customers rather than lose them to places like the internet.
‘One of the things I’m hoping to put together in the New Year is creating a subscription-based service for the pharmacy whereby patients can pay an annual or monthly fee and with that they’ll get a host of benefits, things like free blood pressure monitoring in store.
‘Hopefully this sort of thing will retain some more patients.’